Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hellblazer by Garth Ennis issue #78 [Rake at the Gates of Hell part 1]

Nothing spells out "ROYALLY FUCKED AND BALLS DEEP INTO HELL'S INFERNO PUSSY" in John Constantine's world than when his recent arch-enemy (the Devil, otherwise known as the First of the Fallen) forms an unexpected yet fitting alliance with the little girl whose innocent soul John irresponsibly damned to hell back in the infamous Newcastle arc. Astra, little girl in question suffering eternally in Hell, is pissed like every female who has ever been scorned, only a thousand times worse in this scenario.

The long reach that is Constantine's macabre past finally wraps a tight hold on his throat and is prepared to give him a little shake as John convulses mid-asphyxiation. On the bright side, this five-part story arc is set up to be the next Ennis hit after Dangerous Habits. That pleases me greatly because YO, IT'S ABOUT DAMN TIME! 

Guiltily enough, I live for moments like this whenever I read Hellblazer. I like every story  to be a painful rude awakening because I got me a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome from Jamie Delano's earlier run. That's the only tonality that I keep coming back to for Hellblazer, and Ennis hasn't been meeting this quota at all. But I think he's on his way to turn this around if he sticks to his strengths and doesn't lose himself in useless, pretentious satirical mumbo jumbo like the shite piece that was Damnation's Flame.

This introductory installment for Rakes at the Gates of Hell is written concisely but brutally in a manner so engrossing that I know Ennis is more than capable of delivering. There are some fucked-up scenes that chilled me to the bone. That opening one with Header talking about a wartime experience; that cringe-worthy racial assault against an African-American woman who was pushed down the stairs by an asshole police detective. The woman's son, who was being apprehended for planted drugs in his room, shoots the motherfucker in the arm and he falls down the window, bleeding profusely which he only deserved. On the more personal side of the narrative, John is currently shagging a black woman named Sarah who knows she's only there to warm his bed and is not happy about it, especially when John tried to help a woman named Helen, a former, uh, "bed-warmer" who is now a junkie prostitute obsessed with her pimp, Phil because he's been dosing her up senseless. John took pity on her but ended up slightly rejecting Sarah and she doesn't look like she would take kindly to that. I'm interested to see the kind of conflict this relationship will lead to. Sarah seemed nice enough. I hope to get to know her.

While holding Helen as she slept in his arms, John vowed to take better care of his mates and to make it right with everyone he had wronged. That is a timely proclamation, Johnny boy, and perfectly segues to what I will discuss below.

Meanwhile, Astra approached the First of the Fallen with a promise of retribution against John Constantine to which they will both reap many benefits from. She claimed to have found a way to undo the tangled-up contract that Constantine got him and the rest of his devil-brothers to participate in. This said contract disabled any of them from getting John's soul because that would result to a civil war among them so it was best for the three of them to keep John alive and to make sure his soul is untouched. But Astra, who had nothing more to do in Hell but plot and scheme for ways to destroy the man who damned her there, reassured the First of the Fallen that she had found a loophole. The issue ends with the Devil looking celebratory as fuck as he prepared to move his first piece in the chess game.

This is a promising story arc from what I can discern from this first installment and I'm definitely hooked. I'm so thrilled to see Astra again and the role she will be playing in the entirety of this storyline. I know that the succubus Ellie is going to be making her appearance too, as well as Gabriel who recently fell because John needed an archangel in his arsenal. Things are looking good so far and I hope all the build-up from past issues will have a rewarding pay-off.


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